The American singer is back finally with a daring album recorded in Portugal but with influences from all over the world: here’s our review.

Let’s begin with the hard facts: “Madame X” is the fourteenth studio album from Madonna, contains thirteen new songs (sixteen on the “deluxe” edition of the record), comes out four years after the not indispensable “Rebel Heart” and – this is definitely the juciest news – once again brings on board the French-Afghan producer Mirwais Ahmadzaï.

Josh Grable, West Loop Tattoo Collective, Chicago, USA
Josh Grable, West Loop Tattoo Collective, Chicago, USA

The same Mirwais who had worked with Madge on brave, innovative records like “Music” (2000) and “American Life” (2003) where the acoustic ambience (actually country in the lovely track “Music”) flirted ably with an excellent, compelling electronic base.

The rest of the production was entrusted to Mike Dean (reconfirmed after “Rebel Heart”), Diplo, Billboard and the ever efficient Jason Evigan.

The usual tour de force, basically, to make sure that the singer who hails from Michigan reaches the widest possible public.

Giuseppe Gibi Bonelli, Tattoo Parlour, Milano
Giuseppe Gibi Bonelli, Tattoo Parlour, Milano

On the subject of her new album, Madonna was only to happy to illuminate the press: “Madame X is a secret agent travelilng around the world. Changing identities. Bringing light to dark places. … A dancer. A professor. A head of state. An equestrian. A prisoner. A student. A mother. A child. A teacher. A nun. A singer. A saint. A whore. And a spy in the house of love. I am Madame X.” You’ve got to give it to her: she covers all bases.

And then the title echoes the nickname give to the young Madonna when, at 19 years of age, she studied at the prestigious New York dance school under the exacting Martha Graham. The same Graham, in fact, who once told her: “I’m going to start calling you Madame X. I pass you in the hallway and I don’t recognise you. You keep changing the way you look, your identity. You’re a sort of mystery to me.” Let’s say that those were prophetic words.

The album cover features a close up of the character “Madame X”, with the title carved into the rub red lips of the singer. As if to give the impression that her mouth has been stitched shut by censorship. Mike Wass, a journalist on the popular news site Idolator, has described it as “an already iconic work of art” inspired by the celebrated image of Frida Kahlo.

Ryan Evans, Ship Shape Tattoo, Auckland, New Zealand
Ryan Evans, Ship Shape Tattoo, Auckland, New Zealand

Songs worthy of a mention include the first single “Medellin” with the participation of Maluma, but also the multiform “Dark Ballet” (take a look at the video here below), the erotic trap of “Crave” (a duet with rapper Swae Lee), the reggae of “Future” (this one sung with Quavo), the fado of “Killers Who Are Partying” (Madonna has lived in Lisbon for the past couple of years), the cheeky reggaeton of “Bitch I’m a Loca”, the world music of “Batuka” (a remarkable track) and, finally, the hypnotic electronic of “I Don’t Search I Find”, the best track in the collection, which almost at the very end brings back the Madge who packs a punch.

A super song “I Don’t Search I Find” (which as it happens was produced by Mirwais) which, underneath it all, recalls the historic “Vogue” and a Madge who, in the early ’90s, really managed to drive us wild.

It’s not so easy to do that now, but the talent – it has to be said – is the same as it was in her heyday and “Madame X”, apart from being a worldwide hit, is also a courageous piece of work which manages to avoid ever resting on the laurels of standardisation.

Madonna, Madame X
Madonna, Madame X
The tracklist of “Madame X” (standard edition):
1) Medellín (feat. Maluma)
2) Dark Ballet
3) God Control
4) Future (feat. Quavo)
5) Batuka
6) Killers Who Are Partying
7) Crave (feat. Swae Lee)
8) Crazy
9) Come Alive
10) Faz Gostoso (feat. Anitta)
11) Bitch I’m Loca (feat. Maluma)
12) I Don’t Search I Find
13) I Rise